A.R.E. Weapons: Free in the Streets

Tim O'Neil

At some point the high concept gave way to the concept of simply getting high.

A.R.E. Weapons

Free in the Streets

Label: Defend
US Release Date: 2005-09-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon affiliate

On paper, it's easy to see how an album like Free in the Streets might appear better than it actually is. The concept is about as high as they get: replicate the high-octane charm of vintage Stooges -- with a little Motorhead thrown in for good measure -- using synthesizers and glammed-up drum machines (or, more precisely, real drummers that sound like machines). It's not hard to see how an idea like this could, theoretically, be used to create something quite appealing. But after listening to the disc it becomes clear that at some point the high concept gave way to the concept of simply getting high.

In many ways, A.R.E. Weapons bring to mind the brief phenomenon of the Audio Bullys. A couple years back, in the halcyon days of 2003, the Audio Bullys crossed the Atlantic on a wave of advance hype. They were supposed to be the proverbial Next Big Thing, and I was duly looking forward to the album. But when the UPS man brought my advance copy of Ego War it turned out to be what sounded like a pair of soccer hooligans babbling over sub-Atari 2600 beats. Not exactly what I was expecting.

A.R.E. Weapons come with similar hype. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2002 and was followed by a protracted battle to extricate themselves from their major label contract. Those kind of label disputes usually ensure at least a modicum of good press for the follow-up record: critics and journalists love an underdog, and being screwed over by a major can create incredible buzz. Just look at how the fuss over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot transformed Wilco from a good band into an era-defining band.

But, ah, the obvious difference here is that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was a damn fine record, whereas Free in the Streets is simply horrible. If I were a record company executive, I would have balked too.

Singer Brain F. McPeck (that's not a typo, it's really "Brain") wants to be Iggy Pop so bad that I can taste it, but it's just not happening. The best he can do on most tracks is a low-rent Glenn Danzig. There's some later, coked-out Jim Morrison here as well, on tracks like "Hardcase" and "Brand New Walking Blues". It's not like great rock vocalists have to be able to sing well, but if they can't sing, they need some charisma. The goal of Free in the Streets seems to be to make the seedy and violent seem glamorous and sensual, but McPeck's lyrics really only succeed in making the seedy and skuzzy seem, well, seedy and skuzzy. Charisma hit the door a while back and left with the singer's girlfriend.

"Who Rules the Wasteland?" typifies everything that's wrong with the album. It's got a fairly energetic rhythm, but every bit of instrumentation sounds tinny and crass. I can see the bare bones of a competent glam vamp, but McPeck's bellowing vocals and totally uninspired lyrical content combined with the sub-Type O Negative metal posing make for a repellant experience:

"I'm cruising through the wasteland on a collision course, /
Covered in the blood of an animal corpse, /
You say my death trip won't get me far, /
You don't know you don't drive in my car, /
Who rules the barren wasteland? /
We do!"

I probably shouldn't ask why anyone wants to rule a barren wasteland... I realize this kind of pseudo-metal imagery requires a willing degree of suspension of disbelief on the part of the listener, without which it just seems silly. I freely admit that by the time the bit about the blood of animal corpse came around, I was more inclined to giggle than throw my hand up in devil horns. Dio this ain't.

"Last Cigarette" is an Alice In Chains pastiche -- right down to lyrics about being a "dog on a chain". The S&M imagery runs rampant throughout the whole album, reaching its zenith (or would it be nadir?) on "Reggie":

"I've got a dog, /
He lives in a cage, /
I've got a dog he is a slave, /
To his desire, /
To be free, /
I've got a dog, /
He's a lot like me."

To get the full effect you need to imagine it over what sounds like the Hell High school marching band playing a Bloodhound Gang medley.

I don't like writing overly negative reviews: I like to think that I can find something positive in even the least interesting discs that cross my desk. But after a half-dozen baffled spins of Free in the Streets I readily admit to finding little of redeeming value here. The only real question I can ask is, was this a joke? If it turns out that this is some kind of Spinal Tap spoof, then I would gladly change my poor rating to a six or even a seven. Because as far as intentionally crappy faux-glam electroclash discs go, this is simply fantastic.







How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring current members of Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.